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Press Release
January 31, 2022

The Commission on Population and Development Region X, with its unwavering commitment to its mandates, applauds President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s signing of the Republic Act No. 11596 also known as “An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage” last December 10, 2021.

The United Nations (UN) defines child marriage as any formal marriage or informal union where one or both parties are under 18 years of age. The newly-enacted RA 11596 criminalizes the act of facilitation and solemnization of child marriage and cohabitation of an adult with a child outside wedlock, thus, imposing a penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period and a fine of not less than fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00).

Child marriage has long been considered as a global problem. The Girls Not Brides, a UK-based international non-government organization, even stressed that ending child marriage is critical to achieving 8 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to poverty, food security, health, education, gender equality, economic growth, peace, and justice.

As one of its core programs, POPCOM has been steadfast in advocating Adolescent Health and Development (AHD) which includes issues of national priority such as teenage pregnancy (Executive Order No. 141). Child marriage, inevitably, drives early pregnancy or could be the other way around, teenage childbirth acting as a trigger for early union, both of which would compromise the development and hinder adolescent girls and boys from reaching their fullest potentials.

Globally, the Philippines ranked 12th (726,000) in the highest absolute number of child brides. Northern Mindanao belonged to the top 3 regions in the country with the highest teenage child-bearing at 14.7% (NDHS, 2017). In 2019, The Philippines Statistics Office – Regional Office X (PSA-X) presented in its Special Release of Registered Marriages in Northern Mindanao the number of teenage brides (1,476) in Region X was five times more than the number of grooms (282) of the same age group. This data is showing us the reality that more young girls could have entered into wedlock with older men. Moreover, PSA-X’s latest data in 2020 recorded a total of 906 teenage brides in 2020 with the province of Bukidnon accumulating 74% (667) of it.

The passage of the Anti-Child Marriage Law doesn’t just mean a tick-off of the targets list in the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but more importantly, it abolishes all those traditional and cultural practices and structures that perpetuate discrimination, abuse, and exploitation of children. This is a big step towards putting an end to this long-held practice deep-rooted in gender inequality.

“With the enactment of RA11596, POPCOM is confident that our Filipino children are better protected from abuse and exploitation, hence, enabling them to achieve their aspirations and potentials as the future leaders of our nation, and where hopes of our country’s better tomorrow rest upon,” Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH said.